IIT fee hike, a justified move

The Union Human Resource Development Ministry’s decision to increase the undergraduate students’ fees at the Indian Institutes of Technology is a continuation of the process of rationalisation started by the previous dispensation.

The UPA government had increased the annual fees from Rs 25,000 to Rs 90,000 in two steps. The present proposal is to hike it to Rs 2 lakh for general category students. But SC/ST students and those with disabilities and from the economically backward strata of society will be spared the steep increase. Students from different income categories will pay different amounts of fees. Scholarships and loans will also be made available. Student loans are, in fact, available for all general category students, without their having to offer collateral security. The principle is that no student will be denied the opportunity to study in the country’s best technological institutions because he or she is unable to pay the fees.

Fees at the IITs were deliberately kept low in the years after independence when they were started to attract students to them and to lay the foundation for technological education. There is no need to keep the fees so low now. The need now is to make the IITs financially more independent. Even now, much of the IIT education is subsidised. The enhanced tuition fee accounts for only one-third of what the government spends on an IIT student. A committee which studied the IIT fee structure had recommended an annual fee of Rs 3 lakh. But the government perhaps did not want to make such a steep revision at one go. The IIT graduates generally do not face the problem of unemployment. Most of them find lucrative jobs in the country or abroad after they complete their courses. When scholarships and loans are also easily available, there is no reason to offer a high subsidy for IIT education.

The IITs should increase their financial resources in other ways also, through endowments and with the help of research, patents and consultations, as many top level foreign universities and institutions do. That will make them more independent, and they will not have to succumb to the whims of the government. Financial independence will lead to greater autonomy and help raise academic standards. The fact that India lost many IIT graduates who left for other countries, mainly the US, after completing their courses and settled down there made the subsidy spent on them a waste of public money. The increase in fees will partially address that situation by limiting the loss on account of subsidy.

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